Two pink flags, one says SCFP, the other says CUPEWhen young people in Peterborough and Northumberland County are in crisis, they turn to Kinark Child and Family Services. Lately, they haven’t ended up in treatment but on growing waitlists with little prospect of getting help.

That issue, along with high staff turnover and increasing burnout, was highlighted today for the Board of Directors in an open letter signed by over 90 per cent of members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 2860. The letter called on the Board to intervene and end a nearly two-year impasse at the bargaining table with a fair deal.

These workers are meant to offer a safety net, delivering 24-hour live-in treatment, working with children, youth, and families, supporting local schools, and counselling people through complex mental health needs such as trauma or a breakdown in their homes – but that safety net has holes that young people are consistently falling through.

“We’re fighting over dollars and cents at the bargaining table, but this fight is really about time. Our caseloads are full. Our waitlists are growing. And staff burnout is pervasive given the complexity and depth of services required. We need time to help young people heal and that means improving our working conditions, so more staff stay,” said Susan Soars, a Child and Youth Worker and President of CUPE 2860. “Workers are jumping ship, finding agencies that better support them more and offer in balancing the demands of the job and levels of burnout. And if management gets their way with these concessions, they’ll only push more workers from the job.”

Despite ongoing problems recruiting and retaining workers, management is making demands that would leave workers further behind and chip away at their well-being. They are offering workers pennies at a time of skyrocketing inflation despite senior managers receiving large raises. Cathy Paul, KCFS’s Executive Director, received a 17.5 per cent increase last year which amounted to a roughly $50,000 raise, not far from the average annual salary of these workers, and Cynthia Weaver, the Chief Operating Officer, received a 19 per cent bump, bringing her pay to more than $221,000 a year. Management is also attempting to increase workers’ drug deductible which will take more money out of their pocket and triple the length of probation for new workers to nine months.

“We know what we’re worth. We also know what the children and families of Peterborough and Northumberland County are worth. And it’s far more than management has been willing to invest,” said Soars. “I am so proud of my coworkers for standing up and saying these deserve better.”

CUPE 2860 delivered their supermajority letter to the agency’s Board of Directors in the hopes of making meaningful improvements when they return to the table for conciliation on June 11.